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THE BOROUGH.

LETTER II.

THE CHURCH.

“ What is a Church ?”—Let Truth and Reason speak, They would reply, “ The faithful, pure, and meek; “ From Christian folds, the one selected race, “ Of all professions, and in every place.”

“ What is a Church ?"_" A flock,” our vicar cries, “ Whom bishops govern and whom priests advise ; “ Wherein are various states and due degrees, “ The bench for honour, and the stall for ease ; “ That ease be mine, which, after all his cares, “ The pious, peaceful prebendary shares.”

" What is a Church ?”_Our honest sexton tells, “ 'Tis a tall building, with a tower and bells ; “ Where priest and clerk with joint exertion strive “ To keep the ardour of their flock alive;

“ That, by his periods eloquent and grave; ;

This, by responses, and a well-set stave: “ These for the living; but when life be fed, “ I toll myself the requiem for the dead.”

"Tis to this Church I call thee, and that place Where slept our fathers when they'd run their race: We too shall rest, and then our children keep Their road in life, and then, forgotten, sleep; Meanwhile the building slowly falls away, And, like the builders, will in time decay.

The old foundation—but it is not clear When it was laid—you care not for the year; On this, as parts decay'd by time and storms, Arose these various disproportion'd forms; Yet Gothic, all the learn'd who visit us (And our small wonders) have decided thus: “ Yon noble Gothic arch,” “ That Gothic door;" So have they said ; of proof you'll need no more.

Here large plain columns rise in solemn style, You'd love the gloom they make in either aile ; When the sun's rays, enfeebled as they pass (And shorn of splendour) through the storied glass, Faintly display the figures on the floor, Which pleased distinctly in their place before.

But ere you enter, yon bold tower survey, Tall and entire, and venerably gray,

For time has soften'd what was harsh when new,
And now the stains are all of sober hue;
The living stains which Nature's hand alone,
Profuse of life, pours forth upon the stone;
For ever growing; where the common eye
Can but the bare and rocky bed descry:
There Science loves to trace her tribes minute,
The juiceless foliage, and the tasteless fruit;
There she perceives them round the surface creep,
And while they meet, their due distinction keep;
Mix'd but not blended; each its name retains,
And these are Nature's ever-during stains.

And wouldst thou, artist! with thy tints and brush,
Form shades like these? Pretender, where thy blush ?
In three short hours shall thy presuming hand
Th' effect of three slow centuries command ? (1)
Thou may'st thy various greens and grays contrive,
They are not lichens, nor like aught alive;-
But yet proceed, and when thy tints are lost,
Fled in the shower, or crumbled by the frost;
When all thy work is done away as clean
As if thou never spread'st thy gray and green;
Then may'st thou see how Nature's work is done,
How slowly true she lays her colours on;
When her least speck upon the hardest flint
Has mark and form and is a living tint;

And so embodied with the rock, that few
Can the small germ upon the substance view. (2)

Seeds, to our eye invisible, will find
On the rude rock the bed that fits their kind;
There, in the rugged soil, they safely dwell,
Till showers and snows the subtle atoms swell,
And spread th' enduring foliage ;—then we trace
The freckled flower upon the flinty base ;
These all increase, till in unnoticed

years The stony tower as gray with age appears; With coats of vegetation, thinly spread, Coat above coat, the living on the dead : These then dissolve to dust, and make a way * For bolder foliage, nursed by their decay: The long-enduring ferns in time will all Die and depose their dust upon the wall; Where the wing'd seed may rest, till many a flower Show Flora's triumph o'er the falling tower.

But ours yet stands, and has its bells renown'd For size magnificent and solemn sound; Each has its motto: some contrived to tell, In monkish rhyme, the uses of a bell; (3) Such wondrous good, as few conceive could spring From ten loud coppers when their clappers swing. Enter'd the Church; we to a tomb proceed, Whose names and titles few attempt to read;

Old English letters, and those half pick'd out,
Leave us, unskilful readers, much in doubt;
Our sons shall see its more degraded state;
The tomb of grandeur hastens to its fate;
That marble arch, our sexton's favourite show,
With all those ruff’d and painted pairs below;
The noble lady and the lord who rest
Supine, as courtly dame and warrior dress’d;
All are departed from their state sublime,
Mangled and wounded in their war with time
Colleagued with mischief; here a leg is fled,
And lo! the baron with but half a head;
Midway is cleft the arch; the very base
Is batter'd round and shifted from its place,

Wonder not, mortal, at thy quick decaySee! men of marble piece-meal melt away; When whose the image we no longer read, But monuments themselves memorials need. (4)

With few such stately proofs of grief or pride By wealth erected, is our Church supplied ; But we have mural tablets, every size, That wo could wish, or vanity devise.

Death levels man,—the wicked and the just, The wise, the weak, lie blended in the dust; And by the honours dealt to every name, The king of terrors seems to level fame.

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